Movie: BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER
Rating: PG-13, some strong language and suggestive material
Release Date: May 12, 2023
Jeanne: BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER is a light, breezy comedy --- and a pleasant follow-up to BOOK CLUB (2017), reuniting the four fabulous females we know and love. The writing definitely could have been better to allow these stars to shine brighter, but it’s still an adventure --- who doesn’t love an escape to Italy?
During the pandemic, the four friends, Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen), kept in touch via their computers. Diane is now living with Mitchell (Andy Garcia). Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), Carol’s husband, had a minor heart attack and Sharon adopted a parrot which was very short-lived. Vivian advanced her relationship with Arthur (Don Johnson), who has just proposed marriage.
When they gather in person at Carol’s home for the first time since being apart, the book they’ve chosen to discuss is Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. Vivian arrives sporting a rather large engagement ring, surprising the others since she had vowed never to marry. In the spirit of the novel --- finding opportunity in life’s challenges and self-discovery – the friends decide to act upon a trip to Italy which they postponed when they were in their twenties. Reasoning that a bachelorette celebration is in order, the foursome pack their bags and off they go.
Bill Holderman and Erin Simms return as screenwriters with Holderman again directing. David and I have often opined that comedy --- good comedy --- is the most difficult to pen. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER has some very amusing scenes and too many that are less so. It is the wonderful performances from this stellar cast that keep the film as entertaining as it is.
The vignettes of the women’s activities during Covid are particularly relevant. Many of us had similar experiences. But Sharon’s decision to adopt a parrot is especially amusing --- been there, done that. And though some of the aspects of their Italy excursion are downright silly, Holderman and Simms’ movie reminds us that age is not a deterrent. These broads are having fun!
Keaton, Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen are amazing. It’s obvious they enjoy working together and it was their idea to set this sequel in Italy. Apparently, they love making these films so much, they drove Holderman batty because they wouldn’t stop talking. He managed to wrangle them in, with everyone involved thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time shooting --- even the guys.
Garcia, Johnson and Nelson have reprised their roles with great aplomb. Just like their female counterparts, they, too, seem to be having a blast. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER also showcases three new male actors; Giancarlo Giannini as the Police Chief, Hugh Quarshie as Ousmane, Sharon’s fling in Venice, and Vincent Riotta as Gianni, Carol’s former crush in cooking school. Bergen definitely has some of the funnier --- and juicier --- sequences, and her liaison with Quarshie is hilarious.
Besides the fantastic ensemble of actors, BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER boasts spectacular costumes by Stefano De Nardis --- wait ‘til you see Fonda’s wedding gown --- gorgeous cinematography by Andrew Dunn and luscious sets by production designer Stefano Macia Ortolani. Tom Howe is responsible for the awesome music which had me dancing in my seat --- so much so that David asked me to stop. He claims I was shaking the entire row of seats, but methinks he was just jealous.
BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who are fortunate enough to share such friendships over a good book, too much wine and an occasional trip, it’s endearing and a truly lovely way to spend 107 minutes.
Opinion: See It Now!
David: This sequel to the very popular BOOK CLUB (2017) is certainly entertaining. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER follows the same famous foursome from the original movie as they embark on a trip to Italy, a vacation they intended to take many years earlier.
Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen all have enjoyed high levels of comedic success in their long and storied careers. In this film they demonstrate what terrific friends they truly are, which comes across as genuine in their portrayals. Director and co-writer Bill Holderman from the first movie had to use extreme patience when starting some scenes because the ladies wouldn’t stop laughing. His real-life wife Erin Simms again co-wrote the script.
Not only did these iconic actors get to work together again, but they had to endure two and a half months of shooting in Italy. Imagine the “torture”. They were joined by the same trio of male actors from the first BOOK CLUB --- Don Johnson as Arthur, about to marry Vivian (Fonda), Andy Garcia as Mitchell, boyfriend to Diane (Keaton) and Craig T. Nelson as Bruce, husband of Carol (Steenburgen).
Newcomers to the cast include Hugh Quarshie as Ousmane, an expatriate living in Venice who takes a liking to the retired federal judge, Sharon (Bergen). Also new is Vincent Riotta as Chef Gianni, who had a past relationship with Carol, and Giancarlo Giannini as the Police Chief who gets all kinds of grief from the women after an unpleasant experience with their luggage. They all perform their roles perfectly.
BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER starts off with a quote about fate determining our lives at some point, and then immediately refutes that sentiment as a total lie. The movie follows that theme, substituting love as the determining factor in people’s lives rather than fate or some innocuous influence in the universe.
Little things mean a lot in this follow-up story, like Rosemary Clooney’s famous song “Mambo Italiano”, still a delight since its release 69 years ago. And the film features splendid cinematography in Rome, Venice and Tuscany courtesy of three-time Bafta winner Andrew Dunn.
While the final scenes come across as a bit sappy, it’s not enough to spoil the fun. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER is an opportunity to watch four of our greatest comedic actresses ply their trade and drink lots of wine.
Opinion: See It Now!